By now, most of us are aware about what happened to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. His conviction in a rape case has attracted widespread violence and resulted in the deaths of several of his followers. Today, August 28, 2017, he has been sentenced to 10 years in jail by the special CBI court. It’s not the first time that high-profile babas have been embroiled in controversy. Many of them have also been convicted and are currently spending time in jail. Some of the convicted babas include Asaram, Chandraswami, Ichchadhari Bhimanand, Anand Murti, Rampal, etc. And these are just the ones that have been reported by the media. In the numerous small towns and villages of India, thousands of babas exist and it’s difficult to tell what their intentions really are.
We know what these babas have done, but the question that strikes the mind is how these babas can amass so much wealth and power and are able to wield so much influence. Well, it’s really difficult to tell what really goes inside these baba organizations and their dealings, but certain observations do provide valuable clues. Let’s delve deeper and try to figure out what makes these babas so powerful and how are they able to run parallel government.
Resolve people’s problems: The popularity of babas among the general public is a failure of the system and the government. While these babas and their organizations are promoted as centers for religious or spiritual pursuits, records show that many people come to these babas to get their problems resolved. And the baba does not disappoint, as they can use their connections to get work done. This is why the followers of these babas include everyone from the common man to the businessman and the politicians. If the system was free from corruption and the government was doing its job properly, people would not have faced problems and they would not have gone to the baba asking for help. Good governance may help the government to reduce the influence of babas and limit them to religious and spiritual pursuits.
Political patronage: It’s difficult to imagine that these babas can grow so powerful without political patronage. Politicians have to function in public view and there are records to be kept for their every action. However, there are always some tasks that need to be done unofficially. This is where these babas come into the picture. The babas can act independently and away from public view since they are not elected representatives. This given them a lot more freedom to operate, especially in illegal deals such as land grabbing, government contracts, etc. The political group remains protected since in case of an investigation, the baba will be caught and punished and not the politicians. This is what has happened in the past and is happening even today. This way, the babas work as insurance for politicians. It explains why they are able to become so powerful and run a parallel government.
Economic backwardness: Many people go to babas to seek solutions for their poor financial conditions. In a developing country like India, there are thousands of people who do not have a proper job or source of income. There are also thousands or probably lakhs of people who still can’t have 3 proper meals every day. Babas need lots of followers to show their strength and they achieve that by exploiting the economically backward and poor people. Here, if you just offer a free meal, thousands will line up at your house and you too can become a baba very quickly. If there were enough jobs or other income opportunities for people, and if their bellies were full, they would not have to go to these babas for help.
Limited worldview: Lakhs of households in India are still driven by orthodox religious views. Babas exploit these religious sentiments of people to essentially make them their slaves. The people are made to believe that the baba is no less than a god. This is why the followers are ready to risk their lives to protect the babas and their organization. The followers don’t even care if the baba has been convicted of serious offenses such as rape. They are blinded by their complete faith and trust in their baba.
Black to white: Some reports also indicate that organizations being run by babas may actually be centers for converting black money to white. Looking at the various social welfare schemes that are often organized by baba organizations, the expenses can easily be inflated to convert black money into white. Large donations received by these organizations may have to be declared, but usually thousands of small donations are shown in records. This makes it extremely difficult for tax officials to ascertain if the donations are genuine or black money. For example, if a baba organization says that it has received Rs 20 from 10,000 of its followers, there’s not much that tax authorities can do in such transactions. There is no requirement for PAN or Aadhaar for Rs 20 donations, so it’s difficult to tag it as black money.
Some experts opine that the current trend of babas running parallel governments may continue until the government takes measures to connect with the masses in a better way. The government needs to restore faith and confidence in people that they can trust the government for all their needs and problems. The government also needs to take measures to boost economic growth and create more job and income opportunities. These are essential if controversial babas are to be eliminated from the country.